Barry Jackson

UM offers clues about what Richt is thinking regarding two issues

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday:

With Mark Richt unavailable to the print media for the foreseeable future and declining to answer big-picture questions in recent weeks, it’s all about reading tea leaves now when trying to determine the chances of the coach making significant changes.

And in that regard, two interesting things happened in the past day.

For starters, UM oral commitment Michael Tarquin – a four-star offensive lineman who is strongly considering the Gators – indicated to Canesport that he left this weekend’s official visit with the strong impression that offensive line coach Stacy Searels will return.

Searels was considered the coach most at risk, because his unit underachieved. But he has a history with Richt, and it would be a surprise if he’s dismissed.

Off his visit to UM, Tarquin told Canesport’s Matt Shodell that he expects Searels will be retained. “I don’t have any doubts about that, about him leaving anytime soon,” Tarquin said.

Then there’s the issue of whether Richt would go to the spread as his primary offense after being forced to use it the past six quarters, with Miami down to no available scholarship tight ends.

Two recent comments make me skeptical about that – the fact he suggested to Kelly Bryant that he liked his current offense (before Bryant canceled his visit) and a comment he made to WQAM’s Joe Rose on Monday.

When asked if he might run the spread offense more in the future, he said: “We do run that set” and then spoke for a while before delivering the money line: “We’ll definitely be in the spread again a bit.”

“A bit” doesn’t sound like the words of someone who is ready to change to the spread as his primary scheme after he told us this season that there’s no reason plays that worked for 30 years shouldn’t continue working.

We won’t know for sure if Richt will make significant changes until he either makes the changes or rules them out publicly, whenever he agrees to speak to writers again. But the tea leaves Monday shouldn’t raise your expectations.

Miami Southridge defensive back Tyrique Stevenson, rated the No. 6 cornerback and No. 39 player overall by Rivals in the 2019 class, enjoyed his in-home visit with UM coaches on Sunday, and a source told Canesport’s Shodell that “it’s a nice chance” for Miami to land him “but it’s neck and neck [with Georgia] from what he’s told me. He still likes both.”

Stevenson will visit UM on Dec. 14. He already has visited Georgia and Auburn and reportedly plans to sign in December. Canesport said he will play safety at UM.

Considering the Canes finished second in the nation in yards allowed per game (268) and ranked among the nation’s leaders in several team defensive categories, it was outrageous for UM to get only one player on the All ACC first team (linebacker Shaquille Quarterman).

And the omission of Gerald Willis from the first team was most offensive.

Let’s compare the stats of the first-team All ACC defensive tackles, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, with Willis.

Wilkins had 43 tackles, 12 for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Lawrence had 31 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 0.5 sacks.

Willis, conversely, had 59 tackles, 18 for loss and four sacks.

Willis, who was voted All ACC second team by the head coaches and media, clearly deserved first-team status over Lawrence, and the ACC head coaches and media members who voted otherwise did a disservice to the process.

Though there is enormous respect here for UM safety Jaquan Johnson – as a player and person – his second-team All-ACC status is less egregious than Willis’ because the two safeties on the first team have a lot more interceptions.

Syracuse’s Andre Cisco has seven this season and Virginia’s Juan Thornhill has five, while Johnson has one.

Johnson had 79 tackles (compared with 92 for Thornhill and 51 for Cisco), had two forced fumbles and makes contributions that cannot even be measured statistically. Richt said he’s the best safety in America.

Ex-Canes file: Former UM running back Gus Edwards, who finished his career at Rutgers, has been a revelation for the Baltimore Ravens, with 115 and 118 yards rushing in his past two games… While Bruce Brown is shooting just 12 for 35 as a Detroit Pistons rookie, Lonnie Walker is with the Spurs’ G-League team, preparing for his NBA regular-season debut after a knee injury… Houston fired defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, the embattled former UM coordinator.

In numbers that should be familiar to Canes fans from his regrettable tenure here, Houston ended the regular season No. 97 in rushing defense (197.1 yards), No. 106 in scoring defense (34.4 points), No. 124 in total defense (488.5) and No. 129 – last in Football Bowl Subdivision – against the pass (291.4).

And speaking of D’Onofrio, senior cornerback Michael Jackson ended up playing for both Manny Diaz and D’Onofrio and made this interesting point last week:

Diaz “is guaranteed the best D coordinator I’ve ever had because he knows how players think and he knows what they’re good at,” Jackson said. “Like, this year we’re good at playing man, so going into the season he said we’re going to play straight man.

“[Other] coaches said that before and you end up playing zone all season. But we played straight man, so he’s going to keep it 100 with you the whole time.”

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